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Open letter to science editors


How Stable Is the Solar System?
C.J. Ransom

Dr.  C.J. Ransom, a plasma physicist, has taught at the University of Texas.  Currently he works in the Electro-optics and Reconnaissance Group of General Dynamics, Convair Aerospace Division, Fort Worth, Texas. He teaches a course in Velikovsky theory at Texas Christian University, and has lectured on the subject at other universities in Texas, Switzerland, Germany, and England.

The scientific literature today abounds with catastrophic hypotheses not unlike the events Velikovsky described in 1950. (Harold Urey has suggested that a collision between Earth and a comet splashed water onto the moon.  R.A. Lyttleton believes Jupiter may have split apart in the past.) Many of these hypotheses lend additional support to Velikovsky's views.     

"In questions of science the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." - Galileo Galilei

"Is it not the case that at first a new idea is regarded as not true, and later, when accepted, as not being new?" - Immanuel Velikovsky Ages in Chaos,. ix, 1952.

In his writings Velikovsky contends that the solar system was not always stable, nor is it in the same state as that in which it originated; therefore it has a history.  The Earth, as a member of this unstable system, has repeatedly been a participant in some discontinuous changes.  A central feature of this theory is that these changes have occurred in many geological epochs, as well as several times in the historical past.  The agents, external to the Earth, causing these most recent catastrophes can be identified by analysis of ancient scientific and literary writings.  Although many of the events reconstructed by Velikovsky in 1950 were then highly controversial, a number of them have been either confirmed or hypothesized in recent years by astronomers, geologists, geneticists and other scientists, without drawing undue criticism.

A few of these "original ideas" are briefly surveyed in the following.  They are mentioned to show that scientific thought, no longer restricted by an assumption that no changes have occurred in the solar system since very early in its history, is leading investigators to conclusions similar to Velikovsky's, which were deduced from analyzing data available in 1950.

Velikovsky contended that Venus originated as a protoplanet in a disruption of Jupiter.  The origin of comets from Jupiter has been actively investigated by the Russians.  In 1960 W. H. McCrea, then president of the Royal Astronomical Society, in an analysis of the nebular theory of the origin of the solar system, calculated that no planets could have originated inside the orbit of Jupiter. 1  In the same year R. A. Lyttleton claimed that at some time in its history Jupiter became unstable and could relieve this condition only by breaking into two very unequal parts. 2  More recently Mamedov has analyzed the orbits of hypothetical comets that originated from Jupiter. 3  He also used computer calculations to modify and support Vsekhsvyatskiy's theory 3a of comet origin on or near the surface of Jupiter. 4  Hills has recently suggested that the three outermost planets, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, were displaced into their present orbits by encounters with other planets: 5 this is a consequence of his analysis of the solar nebula, which indicates that Jupiter and Saturn were initially the outermost planets to form in the nebula.  It was theorized by Yamamoto, and later expanded by Lyttleton, that Pluto was an escaped satellite of Neptune. 6  When it was found that Mercury is not fixed with one and the same face toward the sun, Gold concluded that the planet cannot have been in its orbit for more than 400,000 years—possibly less—which is 1/10,000th the assumed age of the solar system, and thus dates its arrival during the age of man. 7

According to Velikovsky, Venus at one time had an orbit intersecting the orbits of some of the other planets—Mars and Earth in particular. (At present among the planets only Neptune and Pluto have intersecting orbits.)  Venus nearly collided with Earth on two occasions and several times with Mars.  These near collisions resulted in changes in the orbits of Venus, Mars, and also of Earth.  Lyttleton, in The Comets,8 diagrammed orbital changes of bodies influenced when passing near Jupiter.

Velikovsky predicted that the ground surface temperature of Venus would be found to be extremely hot (whereas the accepted value in 1950 was only a few degrees above mean annual temperature of Earth).  He reasoned that Venus' violent origin, and also its encounters with other planets, must have generated a large amount of internal heat, and that this heat could not have been completely radiated away, due to the planet's extreme youth.  He explained the observation, known in 1950, that both the day and night sides of Venus' cloud surface have the same temperature, namely -25°C, by maintaining that the planet radiates much more heat than it absorbs from the sun.9  By 1962 there was no doubt that this was the case.  This excess heat was not predicted by others and cannot be explained by the current concepts about the origin of the solar system.  Since the presence of this excess heat has been confirmed, various authors have tried to explain it by the "greenhouse effect," but it was shown that this is not a viable explanation.10  One scientist proposed a collision of a hypothetical moon with Venus—an ad hoc theory.11

Anomalous (retrograde) rotation and angular momentum would not be unlikely as a result of these encounters.  In 1967 Goldstein wrote that it is necessary to consider twin anomalies of Venus' rotation: a retrograde direction, and resonance with Earth.12  Later Colombo observed that although Mercury, the moon and several satellites of Jupiter and Saturn have odd angular momenta, the behaviors of Venus and Mars are much more difficult to explain.13

In addition to the changed angular momentum of Mars (see L. Rose on Mars' orbit in this issue) recent radar studies and Mariner 9 photographs reveal that Mars has other unexpected features.  Certain areas of the surface appear to be covered by recent lava flows crossed with wide faults.  In Worlds in Collision Velikovsky said that any "canals" on Mars were not constructed by intelligent beings, but rather are ". . . a result of the play of geological forces that answered with rifts and cracks the outer forces acting in collisions." (Doubleday edition, p. 364)  These external forces could also be effective mountain builders.  Although observations before 1962 were used by Slipher to "prove conclusively that there are no high mountains on Mars,"14 recent studies by Goldstein15 indicate that 13 kilometer variations exist between peak and valley on Mars.   Recently released photographs from Mariner IX look down on a "super volcano," six miles high and 310 miles wide.

Collisions of the Earth with external bodies resulting in large scale changes of the earth, or collisions of other bodies within the solar system are no longer considered unlikely.  It has been postulated that the unexplained splitting of some comets may be accounted for by collisions between the comets and asteroids.16  In 1959 Ewing and Worzel of Columbia University found a layer of white ash evenly distributed on the bottom of the oceans and ascribed its deposition to a "fiery end of bodies of cosmic origin."  This "cometary collision," they wrote, "could hardly be without some recorded consequences of global extent."17  In 1965 Urey suggested that a collision of the Earth and an external body (a comet) produced violent events which caused rocky materials and water to leave the earth and be captured by the moon.18  Dachille19 and Gallant20 have presented calculations concerning axis changes in the Earth resulting from large meteorite collisions.  Thomas Gold showed that the terrestrial axis could be rather easily turned into a new direction by the application of a modest external force.21  This change and, its possible effects on climate and tectonic movements are discussed.  Hudson Bay and other large areas on the earth are being claimed to have originated in collision with asteroids.

The possibility of petroleum being deposited on the earth as a result of encounters of this nature is claimed by Wilson.22  In 1966 Oro and Han23 contended that aromatic hydrocarbons and other hydrocarbons could be produced from the collision of a comet and a planet.  P.V. Smith24 has shown that petroleum off-shore and on-shore in the Gulf of Mexico is found in recent sediments and can be carbon dated.  This is a surprising result if all petroleum was formed millions of years ago.  In Worlds in Collision it is suggested that at least some of the earth's oil deposits are the result of a recent earth-comet collision.25  Comets are no longer regarded as insubstantial bodies which would cause no harm in case of collision.  Whipple has suggested that Pluto was once a comet.

In the past the Earth's magnetic field has reversed its polarity a number of times.  The geological data for this fact was referred to by Velikovsky in Worlds in Collision (1950) and Earth in Upheaval (1955).  He suggested that the cause of this phenomenon was an interplanetary discharge.  By 1971 physicists Durrani and Khan26 had similarly suggested as a cause of magnetic reversal an interaction between the Earth and an external body.  They claimed that tektites were deposited on portions of the earth at the time of the last accepted reversal.  Tektites, according to some authorities27,28, may have been the result of an Earth-comet encounter; G. Baker, the leading authority on Australian tektites (australites) maintained that, whatever their age, they lay on the ground no more than 5000 years.29 (Only recently it was claimed that the last magnetic reversal occurred about 700,000 years ago; but even more recently indications were found of a reversal 12,500 years ago,30 and other evidence from paleomagnetic study of ancient pottery,31 previously referenced by Velikovsky,32 indicates a reversal in the eighth century B.C.)  Kenner and Watkins33 have also drawn attention to the correlation between polarity change, widespread faunal extinction, climatic changes, and maxima of volcanic activity.

Velikovsky's original work was ridiculed, ignored, and then, as with all great work, it was copied, and its conclusions were often arrived at "independently" by other investigators without due credit being given to Velikovsky.  Noted scientists have recently postulated interplanetary changes and collisions, collisions of the earth with external bodies, and the possibility of the very events, resulting from these collisions, that Velikovsky described in 1950.


1.  W. H. McCrea, Proceedings, Royal Astronomical Society, Series A, Vol. 256 (May 31, 1960).

2.  R.A. Lyttleton, Monthly Notices, Royal Astronomical Society, 121, #6 (1960): Man's View of the Universe (Boston , Little, Brown and Co., 1961), 36.

3.  M.A. Mamadov, Uspekhi Mathematicheskikh Nauk, #3 (1969), 83-95.

3a.  S. K. Vsekhsvyatskiy, Soviet Astronomy, AJ 11, #3 (1967), 473.

4.  M.A. Mamedov, Doki Akad Nauk Azerb, SSR Vol. 26, #6 (1970), 15-18; in English (NASA-TT-F-13788) Avail: NTIS CSCL 03B.

5.  J. G. Hills, "The Origin and Dynamical Evolution of the Solar System," Ph.D. Thesis (Michigan University, Ann Arbor, 1969).

6.  Frontiers in Astronomy, intro by O. Gingerich (W. H. Freeman and Co., San Francisco, 1970).

7.  New York Times (April, 1965).

8.  R.A. Lyttleton, The Comets and Their Origin (Cambridge University Press, 1953) 13.

9.  I. Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision (Doubleday, 1950) 371.

10.  M. B. McElroy, "Venus—A Mystery Still To Unfold," Astronautics and Aeronautics (January, 1971), 19.

11.  S. F. Singer, Science, 170 (1970), 1196.

12.  R. M. Goldstein, Moon and Planets, ed A. Dolfus (North-Holland Publishing Co., (1967),126.

13.  G. Colombo, ESRO Planetary Space Missions, Vol. 1: Basic Data on Planets and Satellites (November, 1970), 29.

14.  E.C. Slipher Photographic Story of Mars (Sky Publishing Corp., Cambridge, Mass.,

1962), 67.

15.  Downs, et. al., Science, 174 (1971), 1324.

16.  M. Harwit, Astrophysical Journal, 151 (1968), 789.

17.  Proceedings, National Academy of Science, 45, # 3.

18.  H.C. Urey, Science, 147 (1965), 1262-65.

19.  F. Dachille Nature, 198 (1963), 176.

20.  R. L. C. Gallant, Nature, 197 (1963), 38.

21.  T. Gold, Nature, 175 (March 26, 1955), 526; Sky and Telescope, (April, 1968).

22.  A. T. Wilson, Nature (October 6, 1962).

23.  J. Oro and J. Han, Science, 153 (1966), 1393.

24.  P. V. Smith, Science, 116 (October 24, 1952), 437.

25.  I. Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision (Doubleday, 1950), 53.

26.  S.A. Durrani and H.A. Khan, Nature, 232 (1971), 320.

27.  H.C. Urey, Nature, 179 (1957), 556.

28.  R.A. Lyttleton, Proceedings, Royal Astronomical Society, Series A, Vol. 272 (April 9, 1963, 457.

29.  "The Present State of Knowledge of the 'Age-on-Earth' and the 'Age-of-Formation' of Australites." Georgia Mineral Newsletter, 15, No. 3-4 (Winter, 1962), 68; Nature (January 30, 1960).

30.  Nature, 234 (1971), 441.

31.  G. Folgheraiter, Rendi Conti dei Licei (1896, 1889); Archives des sciences physiques et naturellas (Geneva, 1899); Journal de physique (1899); P. L. Mercanton, "La methode de Folgheraiter et son role in geophysique," Archives des sciences physiques et naturellas (1907).

32.  I. Velikovsky, Earth In Upheaval (Doubleday, 1955), 146.

33.  J. P. Kenner and N. D. Watkins, Nature, 227 (1970), 930.

PENSÉE Journal I

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